Regulation is often best understood not as a way of curbing the excesses of big business, but as a means by which entrenched business interests keep out competition.
That’s what’s going on in Maryland this election day. Existing casinos are spending millions of dollars to kill a ballot measure in Maryland that would allow a few new casinos to open up in Maryland.
Let me take a step back:
I’m a Maryland voter, and I’ve been undecided on Question 7. On a moral level, I’m anti-casino. I’ve got nothing against gambling in general, but my experience with casinos is that its poor and elderly people sadly burning their money on video slots and video poker machines rigged to take their money. It reeks to me of exploitation.
Now, I don’t like government intervening in voluntary economic exchanges, and because much gambling is morally unobjectionable and often fun, I wouldn’t ban casinos. But Question 7 is somewhere between legalizing casinos and the government establishing casinos. I don’t want government-run casinos, and I don’t get super-excited about giving Marty O’Malley more money to spend, so I’ve been split on this issue.
Then today we got a phone-bank call telling us to vote No on Question 7, because “not one dime would go to schools….” I was curious who cared enough about defeating the measure that they would run phone banks and ads.
The No On 7 website is run by a group called “Get The Facts.” Look at Get the Facts’ donors at the Maryland campaign finance website, and look — all its money comes from Penn National Gaming, which operates two facilities in Maryland, one just over the West Virginia border, and a few just over the border into Pennsylvania.
So that settled it for me. I can’t stomach this attempt to use government intervention to constrain potential competitors. This is shameful stuff.